AO Diva Drama: The Women’s Final Preview
by Lynn Berenbaum | January 26th, 2007, 11:48 am

When two diva’s take to the court for the women’s final of this year’s Australian Open, fans should be provided with enough drama to last us until Roland Garros.

In this corner, weighing in at — dare I say — 135 lbs*, Ms. Serena Williams.

Serena’s move through the draw over the past two weeks has garnered much attention. The major point of debate being whether Williams’ success at the Australian Open is either making a complete joke of women’s tennis, or proving that if she’d train like her counterparts, she’d be the best player ever.

Serena arrived in Melbourne looking like her strength and conditioning program centered around a strict diet of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Coming off a horrible loss to Sybille Bammer in Hobart, many people figured we were looking at ’06 Serena — a third rounder at best.

Somehow, that distant memory doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. She moved through the draw by beating people down, often without mercy!

The past two years have also shown us that we are dealing with, in fact, two different Serena’s: Crazy Serena (CS), and Wimpy Serena (WS).

We all know CS very well. CS doesn’t just try to beat her opponent; she tries to beat the living daylights out of her opponent. CS thrives on the opportunity to contort her face, grunt, scream, and ball up her fist at you in a way that makes you wonder if she’ll hop across the net, snatch your racquet away from your limp fingers, and beat you over the head with it.

I, for one, adore CS. She’s not only great TV, but when faced with a durable opponent, shows us some great tennis. I’m also convinced that CS takes “Richard Pills”, and will soon be telling the press that she’s buying the Statue of Liberty and turning it into an amusement park.

WS, on the other hand, made her official WTA debut in 2006. You know when WS has come out to play not just by the scoreboard, but by her furrowed brow. Not much needs to be said about her. WS often plays on cruise-control, in a zen-like trance, making you somehow think that she’s in the stadium somewhere, but doesn’t really focus on the points slipping from her until she grimaces in pain — just after she’s realized she’s just shanked a backhand into some poor suckers tenth row seat.

Dual personality aside, Serena brings with her the made-for-television speculation that her camp is providing refuge to a shaggy haired Aussie assasin. Honed through years of elementary school training, this master of light was said to have been specially brought in from his regular assignment of burning the Williams’ family personal ant colony with a magnifying glass. His expertise is so professional, that even her opponent was unaware of his stealth attempt.

If you’ve not seen Channel 7′s stunning expose on the evidence, take a moment to do so now.

The other side of the net brings us the soon-to-be world number one, Ms. Maria Sharapova, who stunned Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final, when Sharapova was just 17.

The last time Sharapova and Williams met was on Rod Laver Arena during the semifinals in 2005. You may recall that Sharapova served for the match in the second and third sets and held three match points at 5-4 in the third; but Williams still won, and went on to take the trophy.

But that was then.

Upon examination, Maria’s position is strikingly similar to that of her opponent just a scant few years ago. From the specially-made Nike dresses she sports on court for each Slam, to the multi-million dollar endorsements that just seem to keep growing, to the outrageous grunts, and the “over eager” patriarch sitting on the sidelines creating his own scene; one could say that Sharapova has plagarized an entire chapter from the Williams’ sisters IMG manual.

But besides her number 1 seeding, and her lingering US Open title, Sharapova always brings with her the notion that despite a major gaff, she’ll at least move into the quarterfinals; when things always seem to get a little dicey. Once she passed the hump of almost passing out in the first round from the heat, Masha didn’t really seem to have a time of it down under.

She readily dispatched her opponents with an order of business reality. From the second round until her semifinal against Kim Clijsters, there was no drama or excitement in Maria’s matches, she was just…winning. The only thing fans had to hope for is that a shaky serve would be her undoing.

But all of a sudden a smiling Maria would appear at the net, offering her thanks to her opponent, waving to the crowd, and then she was into the finals.

With the legacy of Banana-gate burned into our memories forever, not to mention a predictable $2,565 fine for illegal coaching during her quarterfinal with Anna Chakvetadze, the cameras will also be firmly fixed on Yuri Sharapov and Michael Joyce. Illegal coaching seems to be the Sharapova box raison d’etre, and bizarely somehow gives justification to the WTA’s on-court coaching program.

But despite the famous line that her “life is not about a banana”, what Maria seemed to really gain from that — pardon the pun — ‘fruitful’ experience, is proof that confidence and mental toughness can affirmatively rally her back to outlast her opponents and pull her through. That assumption was never quite as clear before.

My money’s on Sharapova to become the first Russian woman to win the singles title at the Australian Open, in a thriller of a 3-setter.

One final bit of advice: It would certainly behoove Tennis Australia to take advantage of this opportunity to provide those in Rod Laver with special grunt-dampening ear plugs. …Just in case CS decides to turn up.

And I hope she does.

* Statistic provided by the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website. Since much of the media section hasn’t been updated since November, 2006, who knows when the player data was updated.

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27 Comments for AO Diva Drama: The Women’s Final Preview

Steven Rahn Says:

I’m not sure it’s “crazy” that wins matches, as much as it is “angry” Serena. The best strategy may be to regularly smile across the net at her, wave, blow kisses and look apologetic after hitting a winner. Or better yet, yell “love your out-fit!” at the approach of match point. Just don’t make her mad. Chubby or rusty or whatever…she will start swinging.

Dee Says:

I hope CS does show up, it would make a great match however I feel that Sharapova going to take it in 2. 7-6 6-4.

Lynn Berenbaum Says:

Lucky for me, Steve, CS (or AS as you say) claims that she doesn’t read what people write about her.


Maria P Says:

I think this match will tell a lot about Sharapova. If she wins this, she can handle the pressure of being expected to win. She’s never won a major as the #1 seed before.
I think when these 2 retire, they will have won the most majors of any woman in the 2000-2010 era.

allcourt Says:

“The major point of debate being whether Williams’ success at the Australian Open is either making a complete joke of women’s tennis, or proving that if she’d train like her counterparts, she’d be the best player ever.”

…or that a tennis player can be incredibly fit without fitting your stereotypical image of what a fit tennis player should look like. See Capriati, Kuznetsova, Nalbandian etc etc etc. Think about that for a minute. How the hell do you know that she’s not training like her counterparts?

penise Says:

allcourt: i agree not all players need to be toothpicks, but look at 2003-03 Serena and you tell me if she has been training

as i commented elsewhere my take is that Serena is exceptional talent, and this should remind us of that and what a shame the last couple of years has been

J. Grace Mercer Says:

I hope and pray that crazy Selena turns up.As unlikely as it may be, I would want her to win.

me Says:

penise, if she weren’t training she wouldn’t have won any matches, and it’s not like she breezed to the final most of her matches were competative, unlike Federer.

Serena has always had a big butt and big boobs. Has she been fitter in her career? Yes. But she is hardly the fat slob she is being portrayed as.

These sports writers are using serena’s alleged lack of fitness to slag the women. They should stop frothing at the mouth long enough to realize that Serena has added a lot to this tournament.

disbelief Says:

It’s difficult to believe the heaviest female in tennis could win this slam, lucky we all have genetics and intuitive talent? Hope all young girls don’t think it’s “ok” to weigh #135 to win an open.

Rockville Says:

Serena has done it. She just kicked and I mean kicked Maria’s butt. I am so glad that it was her determination and great performance. Maria played just ok, but Serena deserved to win. What does it say about the WTA ladies? The will have a chance to win another tournament. Now will this shut the haters up long enough to get through the ceremony!

disbelief Says:

I look forward to seeing Venus again

disbelief Says:

Great fit Nike and Great job Serena!

David Oputu Says:

I haven’t seen consistently excellent tennis from any of today’s top female players. For Justine, Maria, Kim, Serena, Lindsay and Venus, it’s up one match and down the next. Serena was clicking today, but she will probably be spraying balls all over the place the next time she meets Maria or Justine.

Conrad Says:

If she just serves like that… forget returns… if she just serves like that for the rest of the year… top 5, and another slam. if she gets in better shape, just about 10 pounds less.. and practices just a bit more.. like say, two weeks before a slam instead of one… she could win 3, maybe even all 4 slams this year.

as for the reports of lack of depth of woman’s tennis… why isn’t the same being said of the men? there is a bigger gasp in ranking points between federer and nadal, then nadal and the 50th ranked player in the world.

give serena the credit.. other girls can’t hit the ball like that.. plain and simple. how people can look at serena’s arms and shoulders and not realize her superiority is beyond me.

Lloyd Blake Says:

As I write this Serena Williams has just won her 8th grand slam at the australian open. I am so glad she proved all the nay sayers wrong and the haters. It just proves you can’t hold a great champion down. You must remember that serena williams has been plagued with injury for the last eighteen months. You are obviously going to put on some weight, who ever you are. Though it says alot for the mind and her ability to hit crushing ground strokes. She made Sharapova look tame. The match proved that the Williamses are by no way finished with the game. I wish the writer of your lead article would give serena williams, an 8 grand slam winner, the respect she deserves.

Lynn Berenbaum Says:

Reflecting on the match this morning I had a mental image of the beatdown Serena put on Maria. It included Serena fiercely slamming balls across the net — backhands, forehands, overheads — screaming, “I …WANT …MY …NUMBER …ONE …BACK …BIATCH …IT’S …MINE….”

All the while Maria was running back and forth on the other side of the net using her tennis stick as more of a defensive tool than anything else, every once in a while mistakenly clipping a ball and sailing it back somewhere.

That’s basically my parody cartoon version of the events that unfolded last night. Maybe not even far off.

It’s obviously too soon to make any grand declarations that Serena “is back”, or that both the Williams sisters aren’t going to continue their MO of playing ‘when they feel like it’ again (in between movie appearances and fashion shows).

That’s as unpredictable as Serena’s ascension to the trophy.

Let’s all hope that she commits herself fully to tennis again. If she does, there is no doubt that she’ll be the greatest female player of all time.

And grab that #1 spot back for reals.

I’m still disappointed that there was no diva drama though. The best moment of the snoozefest beatdown was that smash Masha hit at Serena. Booo-ring. ;^)

Natasha Says:

It would have been nice if Sharapova had managed to look a little less pissy when handed her runner up trophy and held it up a little higher, not the “you know and I know I should have won” sympathy ploy she attempted, and if she had rambled on less wimpily in her speech. Take it on the chin, Sharapova. You’re not entitled to any tournament, no matter what daddy tells you.

Lynn does not know what the hell she's talking about Says:

Eat Crow, Bitch

Serena Says:

Natasha = jealous bitch!

Serena Says:

Oh, and Lynn do find Roger Federer’s string of beatdowns to be a snoozfest??

Natasha Says:

Jealous of what exactly???

ben (the real one) Says:

watching roger federer is just flat out better than watching serena williams. federer has great technique, footwork, everything. serena is a barbarian swinging around a giant log shaped like a racquet.

Big House Says:

ben, you’re an idiot.
There are very few gazelles in women’s tennis…certainly none that win anything. With all the power players in the game today, players aren’t as concerned about how graceful they look or sound. The whole idea is to get the ball back one more time than he does. You need speed and technique for that. Having said that Serena is one of the fleetest players on the tour and plays great defense and offense, with alarming power. Accept it, embrace it…by the way what’s your game like?

Big House Says:

This is a toss up form an odd angle but there is some shred of truth to it. “The the most dominant player on the women’s tour this decade (if you count 2000) has been Venus Williams. Call me crazy but here it is. Venus was dominating everyone in tennis in 2000 & 01 while Serena struggled, ususally losing out to Capriati. In 2002-03 Venus dominated everyone else but Serena Since 2004 each has struggled but each has proven that they can get off the floor and win majors. Serena has the numbers but most accomplished during a two year run. Okay it is a little crazy.

Bill Says:

Now that it’s really over. I figured out why Kimmy was so awful in her SF. Wasn’t she the favorite to win AO 2007?

Well… Kimmy is Miss Nice, but she’s not dummy, and wisely washed her hands off this *ALTAMONT OPEN. Let’s face it, this grand slam was scary and damn ugly. First the tennis holigans. Yes, Hooligans. Then it was the abusive language, and that was only from the players that were heard because there were microphones on court. Then it got uglier- the young boy molested in the mens toilet. And weirder the man from Japan that was arrested for using a video camera to film up women’s skirts.

Was this really a grand slam?

The women’s final – enuff said. Not much class, and way too much crass. Power swearing, and alot of yelling = Modern American style tennis. HURRAH for ESPN because ratings are up.

P.S Australia still loves you Kimmy.

*Rollings Stone infamous concert of 1969.

aaa Says:

Boring final-that’s the truth.

Rush'n Says:

Been watching Maria play for a long time, and this match was off the chart. Giving Serena credit for a great game, one must wonder what was wrong with Maria. Her body language, especially when serving, suggested that something terrible was weighing on her. I am surprised that noone has commented on this.

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